NEW YORK (AP) — Probing allegations of racial profiling, New York City is giving 17 major retail stores until Friday to submit information on how they've dealt with shoppers suspected of stealing.
The City Council tackled the emotional issue on Wednesday at a hearing that included statements from Macy's and Barneys New York denying allegations by customers that they had been singled out and followed.
City Council member Jumaane Williams calls the problem "staggering."
The stores did not send representatives to the session in the City Council's main chamber.
"I'm offended that Barneys New York and Macy's is not here. I think it's insulting, not just to the City Council, but to the City of New York and the people who shop there," Williams said.
The NYC Commission on Human Rights has sent letters to 17 retailers — including Macy's and Barneys — requesting the following information: loss prevention policies; procedures for approaching and detaining individuals suspected of theft; records regarding all individuals accused of theft in the past two years; and what, if any presence, NYPD officers have in the retail locations.
The stores are: Century 21, Loehmann's, Sephora, Target, Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Sears, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, The Gap, CVS, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys, Macy's, Bath & Body Works/Limited Brands/Victoria's Secret.
Letters may be sent to additional businesses, but "we selected these locations based upon previous discrimination complaints against these stores, and the size and prominence of the stores," said Patricia Gatling, the city's human rights commissioner. "This is only the beginning of our investigation."
The Associated Press requested comment from each of the retailers by phone and email, only Sephora replied as of late Wednesday. Sephora declined comment.
While tensions over shoppers' charges that they are being followed in various stores have simmered for years, they've resurfaced again in recent months after several incidents.